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December 18, 2015 USFWS Approves City of San Antonio and Bexar County
Plan to Conserve Nine Federally Listed Species
Habitat Conservation Plan will minimize impacts from development

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced the approval of the Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan (SEP HCP) and incidental take permit covering commercial and residential development and infrastructure projects in the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas. Landowners and developers who have projects impacting nine federally protected threatened and endangered species and their habitat now have a streamlined process for complying with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Service, City of San Antonio, and Bexar County, worked together to develop a plan that minimizes and mitigates the impacts of infrastructure and commercial and residential development on the golden-cheeked warbler, black-capped vireo, Government Canyon Bat Cave spider, Madla Cave meshweaver, Braken Cave meshweaver, Government Canyon Bat Cave Meshweaver, Helotes mold beetle, and two ground beetle species, each of which has no common name (Rhadine exilis and Rhadine infernalis) in one of the fastest growing areas of the country. The associated incidental take permit authorizes the incidental take of these federally listed species for 30 years. The SEP HCP and associated permit cover lands within Bexar County and the City of San Antonio’s jurisdictional boundaries.

The development of the SEP HCP represents over five years of public involvement including the Biological Advisory Team and Citizen Advisory Committee meetings convened by the City of San Antonio and Bexar County and the Service’s public meetings and public comment periods. Over 100 comments were received during the three month public comment period. Many of the comments submitted provided extensive feedback on both the draft SEP HCP as well as the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Service worked closely with the applicants and interested community members throughout the process, and the final SEP HCP and EIS are the product of this collaborative process.

The development of the SEP HCP represents over five years of public involvement including the Biological Advisory Team and Citizen Advisory Committee meetings convened by the City of San Antonio and Bexar County and the Service’s public meetings and public comment periods. Over 100 comments were received during the three month public comment period. Many of the comments submitted provided extensive feedback on both the draft SEP HCP as well as the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Service worked closely with the applicants and interested community members throughout the process, and the final SEP HCP and EIS are the product of this collaborative public process.

“The Regional Habitat Conservation Plan for the Southern Edwards Plateau demonstrates the commitment of the City of San Antonio and Bexar County to protecting imperiled species and the unique landscapes of Central Texas while addressing the economic needs of one of the fast growing areas in the country,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “By maintaining open space, protecting water quality and providing landowners and businesses with a streamlined ESA process, the city and county are ensuring that the area can thrive economically and provide an attractive and healthy community for residents.”

Under the ESA, the Service has developed a number of tools, including HCPs, which provide businesses, landowners and state and local governments with the ability to continue their activities while ensuring the protection of listed species. Regional HCPs can cover multiple species, areas and activities, thereby providing a streamlined ESA process that minimizes the time and costs associated with developing individual plans.

You may obtain copies of the EIS, SEP HCP, and Federal Register Notice of Availability are posted on the DOCUMENTS (The word DOCUMENTS needs to be a link that sends the reader to http://www.sephcp.com/documents.html) page, as well as the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/. For further information on how to obtain or review copies of these documents see the Federal Register notice at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/index.html.

Public Meetings The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County will conduct public meetings in Helotes, Texas and Kerrville, Texas, to obtain comments on the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat Conservation Plan (dHCP), draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) and an incidental take permit application. Public meetings are scheduled for 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. at each location. The dates and locations for the public meetings are:

Tuesday, February 3rd
Casa Helotes Senior Center
12070 Leslie Road
Helotes, Texas 78023

Wednesday, February 4th
YO Ranch Conference Center
2033 Sidney Baker
Kerrville, Texas 78028

For additional information on the upcoming public meetings see the USFWS News Release.

January 21, 2015 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced dates for 2 public meetings to collect input on the draft SEP-HCP and draft EIS. The meetings will be held Feburary 3 and 4, 2015 in Helotes and Kerrville. The public meetings will start at 5:00 p.m. and will include an open house and formal presentation at 5:30 p.m. Click here for a copy of the meeting notices.

Draft SEP-HCP and Draft Environmental Impact Statement The USFWS has published the Notice of Availability of the draft Environmental Impact Statement which has been prepared to evaluate the permit application in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; NEPA). The USFWS had made the permit application package, including the dHCP and dEIS, available for public review and comment.

The Service encourages the public to review and provide comments on the documents during the 90-day public comment period. Written comments must be received by March 19, 2015. Comments may be submitted in one of the following ways:

Electronically: through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov. In the search box enter FWS-R2-ES-2014-0053, which is the docket number for this notice. Then on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Notices link to locate this document and submit a comment.

U.S. Mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2014-0053; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

The Draft SEP-HCP,Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and Federal Register Notice of Availability are posted on the DOCUMENTS page.

Public meetings will be held during the comment period. The exact locations and times for the meeting will be noticed in local newspapers, on the USFWS Austin Ecological Services Office website and here at least two weeks prior to each event. For further information on how to obtain or review copies of these documents, or how to provide comments, see the Federal Register notice .


Draft SEP-HCP Submitted to USFWS The Bexar County Commissioners Court voted December 6, 2011 to submit the Draft SEP-HCP to the USFWS with an application for an incidental take permit. The Draft SEP-HCP and application form were submitted to USFWS on December 19, 2011. An Administrative Draft of the SEP-HCP Environmental Impact Statement was delivered to the USFWS on December 22, 2011.

The Draft SEP-HCP now limits use of the Plan for ESA compliance to only those properties that occur within Bexar County or the City of San Antonio (including the City's Extra-territorial Jurisdiction). The Draft SEP-HCP still allows for conservation actions to be implemented anywhere within the 7-county Plan Area. A copy of the December 19, 2011 Draft SEP-HCP is posted on the DOCUMENTS page.

The USFWS is currently reviewing the draft documents and is expected to formally solicit comments from the public in late spring/early summer.

December 19, 2011
The Bexar County Commissioners Court voted December 6, 2011 to submit the Draft SEP-HCP to the USFWS with an application for an incidental take permit. The Draft SEP-HCP and application form were submitted to USFWS on December 19, 2011. An Administrative Draft of the SEP-HCP Environmental Impact Statement was delivered to the USFWS on December 22, 2011. The Draft SEP-HCP now limits use of the Plan for ESA compliance to only those properties that occur within Bexar County or the City of San Antonio (including the City's Extra-territorial Jurisdiction). The Draft SEP-HCP still allows for conservation actions to be implemented anywhere within the 7-county Plan Area. A copy of the December 19, 2011 Draft SEP-HCP is posted on the DOCUMENTS page. The USFWS is currently reviewing the draft documents and is expected to formally solicit comments from the public in late spring/early summer.

NEPA EIS Scoping Comment Period Open Through July 26 The public comment period for the USFWS NEPA EIS scoping process continues through July 26, 2011. The USFWS is accepting written comments on the scope of issues and alternatives to analyze in the EIS until the close of the comment period.

Please send your comments to USFWS via 1) FAX to 512-490-0974; 2) E-mail to fw2_aues_consult@fws.gov; or 3) US Mail to USFWS Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758-4460.

More information on the NEPA Process and the EIS is available on the NEPA page.

CAC Meeting - July 11, 2011 The CAC met on July 11, 2011 to discuss the outcome of the committee's June 15 workshop and vote on a recommended plan alternative. After much deliberation and several votes, the CAC was not able to pass a motion recommending a plan alternative. Several CAC members desired an alternative with higher level of conservation than the proposed First Draft, while other CAC members were concerned that the level of funding required for such an alternative would be too great for participants and the public to bear. The CAC is not expected to meet again until a revised Second Draft of the plan is available for review. The agenda, back-up materials, and approved minutes for this meeting are posted on the COMMITTEES page as they become available.

CAC Workshop - June 15, 2011 The CAC held a 9-hour workshop on June 15, 2011 to develop a preferred scenario for the Plan that balances the amount of take authorization needed, mitigation ratios, preserve land distribution, and participation fees. Workshop participants developed ideas for a preferred scenario within their individual stakeholder groups, and then discussed these ideas with the entire group. Workshop participants developed a proposal that was unofficially accepted by more than 2/3 of the members present, with some members opposing it because of public funding concerns and/or desire for more preserve land in Bexar County. No actions were taken at this workshop. CAC members tentatively scheduled a July meeting to continue discussions on this consensus proposal with possible action on a recommendation for a Plan alternative.

BAT Meeting - June 10, 2011 The BAT met on Friday June 10, 2011 to prepare a unified committee response to the First Draft SEP-HCP. The BAT approved the content of an official BAT response to the First Draft, in addition to submitting comments from individual BAT members. An agenda, materials, and approved minutes will be posted on the COMMITTEES page as they become available.

BAT Meeting - June 6, 2011 The BAT met on June 6, 2011 to discuss BAT member comments on the First Draft SEP-HCP and to prepare a unified committee response to the draft. The BAT worked on several issues, including plan administration, advisory committees, mitigation ratios, karst preserves and participation process, secondary uses of preserves, and adaptive management and monitoring. The BAT agreed to continue working on a unified response to the First Draft on Friday June 10. An agenda, materials, and approved minutes will be posted on the COMMITTEES page as they become available.

June 1, 2011 The comment period on the First Draft SEP-HCP has been extended until June 10, 2011. The draft text and associated appendices are posted on the DOCUMENTS page for downloading. Comments may be submitted by email to info@sephcp.com or by regular mail to the consultant team (c/o Ms. Amanda Aurora, Loomis Partners, 3101 Bee Cave Road, Suite 100, Austin, Texas 78746). Bexar County will address each comment received and prepare a revised Second Draft SEP-HCP for additional review. The revised draft is expected to be available by September 2011.

May 16, 2011 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced dates for 5 public meetings to collect input on the scope of the environmental analysis for the EIS, including alternatives to the proposed plan. The meetings will be held between June 6 and June 14, 2011 in various locations within the proposed 7-county Plan Area, including Bandera, Kerrville, Boerne, Blanco, and Helotes. The public meetings will start at 5:30pm and include an open house, formal presentations, and panel discussions with agency and applicant representatives. Click here for a copy of the meeting notices.

CAC Meeting - May 9, 2011 The CAC met on May 9, 2011 to discuss the First Draft SEP-HCP and the anticipated project schedule through 2011. The CAC decided to hold a workshop in June to develop a consensus recommendation for an alternative to the First Draft. Specific dates and location for the workshop are to be determined and the workshop will be open to the public. The CAC also heard a presentation regarding a land developer's perspective on the need for a regional HCP and various mitigation strategies. Agendas, materials, and minutes for the meeting are posted on the COMMITTEES page as they become available.

April 27, 2011 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to the proposed SEP-HCP. The notice announced the start of a public comment period to collect input on the scope of the environmental analysis for the EIS, including alternatives to the proposed plan. The Service will be holding several public meetings across the 7-county Plan Area in May and early June. The specific dates and locations of these public meetings will be announced through a variety of media outlets as they become available. The public is invited to send written comments to the Service (email to allison_arnold@fws.gov or US Mail to Field Supervisor, Austin Ecological Services Field Office, 10711 Burnet Road, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78758?4460). Comments must be received by July 26, 2011. Click here for a copy of the complete Federal Register notice.

April 25, 2011 The Medina County Commissioners' Court approved a resolution on April 25, 2011 to not support nor participate in the creation of the SEP-HCP. Click here for a copy of the Medina County resolution.

April 12, 2011 The First Draft SEP-HCP is available for review and comment! The draft text and associated appendices are posted on the DOCUMENTS page for downloading. Bexar County will accept written comments on the First Draft until June 1, 2011. Comments may be submitted by email to info@sephcp.com or by regular mail to the consultant team (c/o Ms. Amanda Aurora, Loomis Partners, 3101 Bee Cave Road, Suite 100, Austin, Texas 78746). Bexar County will address each comment received and prepare a revised Second Draft SEP-HCP for additional review. The revised draft is expected to be available by September 2011.

CAC Meeting - April 11, 2011 The CAC met on April 11, 2011 to hear a presentation of the major components of the First Draft SEP-HCP and an update on the next steps, including review of the draft Plan, the process for addressing comments, and preparation of a revised draft. The CAC voted to not accept the First Draft SEP-HCP as written and to submit comments and recommendations to Bexar County by June 1, 2011. Agendas, materials, and minutes for the meeting are posted on the COMMITTEES page as they become available.

BAT Meeting - April 1, 2011 The BAT met on April 1, 2011 to discuss the karst subcommittee's ideas for the conservation program, including ensuring that the Plan would not preclude recovery, procedures for investigating voids discovered during construction, and karst preserve management. The BAT also continued discussions regarding the treatment of Eurycea salamanders in the Plan. The BAT recommended adding several salamander species to the list of "Category 3" or "Category 4" species addressed in the Plan. Agendas, materials, and minutes for the meeting are posted on the COMMITTEES page as they become available.

 

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